Celmisia lyallii


Celmisia: Apparently named after Kelmis, one of Idaean Dactyls, a group of skilled mythical beings associated with the Mother Goddess Rhea in Greek mythology. Kelmis, whose name means ‘casting’, was a blacksmith and childhood friend of Zeus, son of Rhea and later king of the gods. In Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, Kelmis is described as offending Zeus who turned him into adamant so he was as hard as a tempered blade
lyallii: Named after David Lyall (1817-1895), 19th century Scottish naturalist and surgeon with the Royal Navy, who explored Antarctica, New Zealand, the Arctic and North America and was a lifelong friend of Sir Joseph Hooker.

Common Name(s)

false Spaniard

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Celmisia lyallii Hook.f.



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Herbs - Composites




Endemic. South Island: widespread in drier sites so found mainly east of the main divide.


Montane to subalpine open grassland, herbfield, fellfield


Tufted rigid herb with short pseudo-stem arising from us. simple stock. Leaves rigid, coriaceous, narrow-ensiform tapering regularly to pungent apex; lamina 20-60 × 6-9 mm; upper surface glabrous, very finely striate to smooth; lower surface strongly grooved, densely clad in thin appressed white satiny tomentum to almost glabrous (in different plants); margins slightly recurved, entire. Sheath abruptly widened from somewhat constricted lamina-base, 30-80 × 10-15 mm, thin, grooved, clad in appressed white satiny tomentum. Scape 15-36 mm long, rather slender, white with ± floccose tomentum, ± concealed by bract-sheaths. Bracts numerous, crowded; lowest leaf-like, to 60 cmm long, diminishing in size toward scape apex, uppermost c.10 mm long, forming a pseudo-involucre. Capitula 25-50 mm diameter; involucral bracts linear-subulate, rigid, indurated, ± 20 mm long, midrib prominent. Ray-florets very slender, 12-14 mm long, white; limb hardly wider than tube, 4-toothed. Disk-florets 6-7 mm long, tubular, lobes triangular. Achenes 2-3 mm long, compressed-cylindric, strongly grooved; hairs minute, stiff, very minutely barbellate

Similar Taxa

The dry land equivalent of Celmisia armstrongii and C. petriei. From Celmisia petriei it is distinguished by the very rigid, narrow leaves with pungent apices, the leaf has only a single prominent midrib rather than a stout, parallel pair of veins either side of an obscure central midrib. from Celmisia armstrongii, C. lyallii differs by its very pungent (sharp tipped leaves). and by the absence of a broad yellow band either side of the midrib on the upper leaf surface.


November - February

Flower Colours



December - April

Propagation Technique

Easily grown in a shaded site, planted within a permanently moist, free draining, acidic soil. Dislikes humidity and will not tolerate drying out. Best grown from fresh seed which should be sown immediately or stratified in a fridge or freezer for 1-3 months


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 108

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Pappate cypselae are dispersed by wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Occasionally available from specialist native plant nurseries.


Description adapted from: Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I, Government Printer, Wellington

References and further reading

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 15 Aug 2014